Skip to content

Hall of Famer George Raveling has Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech

Aug 28, 2013, 10:06 AM EDT

source:

CSNPhilly

George Raveling was an All-American basketball player at Villanova. When he playing career came to an end, Raveling went into coaching, which took him to the head jobs at Washington State, Iowa and USC. When he retired, he took over as Nike’s Director of International Basketball.

All of that earned him the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award given out by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

But that’s far from the most intriguing aspect of Raveling’s life, as he played a major role in one of the most fascinating stories in college basketball history.

50 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Raveling, a DC native, hadn’t planned on attending the march, but he managed to find himself on the stage, seven or eight people away from Dr. King, as a volunteer security guard.

Raveling was at dinner with the family of a former teammate in Wilmington, DE, the night before when the two youngsters were convinced to make the drive to DC to witness history. They got a hotel and made their way down to the Lincoln Memorial, where their size got them recruited to serve, a last-minute security precaution for event organizers that were worried about so many emotionally-charged people in one place.

This story from Time Magazine has the details:

Then King began to speak. As Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Garrow notes in the August 2003 edition of American History magazine, King had used the “I have a dream” phrase in four previous speeches. But to the ears of young George Raveling — and to most TV viewers; CBS carried the event live — it sounded all brand new. Suddenly Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voice was heard by more people than all of his previous Southern Christian Leadership Conference orations combined. Recognizing this, the day before the march King had disseminated copies of the speech to the press. That day, worried that it was rather too predictable and oratorically stale, King rewrote much of the speech before heading to the podium, inking out lines and rewriting passages. What he did not ad, however, was the “I have a dream” refrain, which spontaneously erupted mid-way through the speech. Raveling has a theory about that. “King had just happened to be the last speaker,” Raveling says. “And as he began delivering the prepared text he saw that he was really capturing the crowd. That’s when Mahalia Jackson began egging him on. If you listen carefully to the speech you can her a woman’s voice in the back saying, ‘Please Martin tell them about the Dream.’ She was saying it constantly. It was like going to church on Sunday at a black church and people are making little remarks. From that point on he didn’t read the speech, he only used it as a guidepost.”

King ended his oration with the unforgettable line: “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” With sweat pouring out of him, he stepped back, blotted his forehead with a handkerchief, and waved farewell as he headed off the crowded makeshift platform. That’s when Raveling made his move. “I was only about four people off to the side of King,” he remembers. “I don’t know what possessed me but I walked up to King and calmly asked ‘Can I have that copy?’ Without hesitating he turned and handed it to me. And just as he did a rabbi on the other side came and said something to him, congratulating him on his speech and that was essentially the end of it as far as me acquiring the speech. Of course nobody, including myself, realized that this was going to take on the historical significance that it did.”

Incredible.

Here’s the most amazing part: Raveling forgot that he had the original copy of the speech for 20 years!!! He didn’t remember until a reporter asked him about being involved in the Civil Rights’ movement some 20 years later.

Raveling now has the two-and-a-half page speech framed. He keeps it in a bank vault in LA, where he now lives.

Latest Posts
  1. Former Vanderbilt player Dai-Jon Parker dies in boating accident

    May 29, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT

    Chris Denson, Dai-Jon Parker AP

    Dai-Jon Parker played this past season at the University of Indianapolis.

  2. Former Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt holding off on school decision

    May 28, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Fred Hoiberg’s status has impacted recruiting in multiple cases for Iowa State this spring.

  3. Big 12 Tournament to remain in Kansas City through 2020

    May 28, 2015, 7:43 PM EDT

    Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg

    Big 12 tournaments held at the Sprint Center have averaged more than 18,000 fans per session.

  4. SEC announces new men’s basketball scheduling format

    May 28, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT

    SEClogo

    Each team will have three “permanent” opponents they’re guaranteed to play twice every season.

  5. Misdemeanor charges against VCU’s Mo Alie-Cox dropped

    May 28, 2015, 5:46 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Video surfaced showing that Alie-Cox wasn’t involved in the incident, contradicting a woman’s claim that he punched her in the face.

  6. Former VCU forward transferring to UConn

    May 28, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    UConn’s now added three transfers to the program this spring, two of whom will be eligible immediately as graduate students.

  7. Former Clemson coach Bill Foster dies at 79

    May 28, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT

    ClemsonTigers.com ClemsonTigers.com

    Foster led Clemson to their only Elite 8 appearance in program history.

  8. North Carolina to visit Northern Iowa in homecoming game for Marcus Paige

    May 28, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Paige went to high school an hour from UNI’s campus.

  9. #FredHoibergWatch officially commences today, as Bulls fire Thibodeau

    May 28, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Iowa State fans shouldn’t freak out too much.

  10. Throwback Thursday: That time Matthew Dellavedova beat BYU at the buzzer (VIDEO)

    May 28, 2015, 12:24 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Dellavedova was a star with the Gaels before he became this year’s NBA Playoff star.

  11. Walter Byers, former NCAA director who coined ‘student-athlete’, dies at 93

    May 28, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Byers created the term “student-athlete” and first sold TV rights for NCAA broadcasts, but later wrote a book blasting the NCAA for exploiting athletes.

  12. Big 12 schools to face penalties for court storming

    May 28, 2015, 9:52 AM EDT

    KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 22: Fans wear full bodysuits that read 'Airhead Moment' in the first half of the game between the Kansas State Wildcats and the La Salle Explorers during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 22, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

    This is a step in the right direction by the Big 12.

  13. Former Michigan State, Notre Dame center goes on Twitter rant about NCAA

    May 27, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Garrick Sherman AP

    It’s safe to say that Sherman is no fan of the NCAA.

  14. Kentucky’s John Calipari believes college basketball’s ‘gotten way too rough’

    May 27, 2015, 9:05 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The shot clock won’t have as much of an impact on offenses as lessening the physicality of the game.

  15. Memphis commit reclassifying to 2015, will enroll next month

    May 27, 2015, 7:31 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The 6-foot-11 center was originally expected to attend prep school before joining Memphis in 2016.

  16. St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin throws out first pitch at Yankees game (VIDEO)

    May 27, 2015, 5:38 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The 6-foot-6 southpaw showed off his arm, and was accurate in doing so.

  17. Bill Self wins Hall of Fame’s humanitarian award

    May 27, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    150527_billSelf Getty Images

    Self and his wife created the Assists Foundation.

  18. Auburn center Trayvon Reed released from jail

    May 27, 2015, 11:09 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Reed broke a cop’s finger while resisting a shoplifting arrest.